8. Sexual fantasy is really just the brain’s way of driving us to do evil things. False.
I have a dear friend and mentor, Jarratt Major, who’s an 80-year old licensed marriage and family therapist and a retired minister. I’ve been meeting monthly with him and two other professional counselors for almost four years now, in a group we affectionately refer to as “Shrink Rap” since we’re a bunch of shrinks who rap about our own life journeys. Jarratt, considered the “padre” of the group, has taught us two incredibly valuable nuggets of wisdom that have shaped my thinking and sparked my imagination to write this book:
1) Fantasies are really just the brain’s way of trying to heal itself.
2) If you don’t learn to face your fantasies, they may bite you on the butt as you’re trying to run away from them![i]
Grasping these principles has transformed my thought life, enhanced my self-esteem, and even saved my marriage. For example, many years ago, each time a man turned my head, I’d panic. Is this destiny telling me I married the wrong person? Is this the beginning of the end of my marriage? Is an extramarital affair inevitable here?, I’d naively wonder.
Fortunately, my husband was always far more understanding of temptations and fantasies than I was. As I tearfully confessed my thoughts and asked him for forgiveness and accountability, he’d often remind me, “Shannon, this is not about you and me. This is about you and your dad.”
This notion has made a lot more sense in light of the two principles Jarratt has shared with me. These fantasies of other, usually older men were really just my brain’s way of trying to heal the hurts of feeling so emotionally distanced from a father who simply didn’t know what to do with a daughter. If I ignored the pain that produced the fantasies, I could have easily fallen into those affairs. Instead, I faced the pain, going through months of intense group and individual therapy to deal with my “daddy issues.”
Now, after 45 years of life and almost 23 years of marriage, I’ve learned that when my head gets turned and my heart feels drawn toward another man, I don’t need to panic or run to confession. Instead, I’ll approach Greg and ask, “Would you mind holding me like a baby?” As my 6’7” husband scoops me up in his arms, I’m reminded that I have all the love I need – all I can handle – wrapped up in this relationship called marriage. But even if I didn’t have a husband at all, the love of my Heavenly Father envelopes me enough to keep me safe from my own sexual fantasies if I will choose to bask in His presence rather than run toward the object of my fantasy.
Therefore, the question to ask ourselves is never, “How can I fulfill this fantasy?” or even “How can I ignore this fantasy?” but rather, “What can I learn from this fantasy?” and “How can I heal this pain that’s causing me to fantasize in this direction in the first place?” Like an alchemist who extracts gold from base metals, we can extract some of the most valuable nuggets of wisdom from the most “base” of our mental inventory.
[i] Pia Melody is credited with introducing Jarratt Major to this concept.